Beers truly do follow the seasons like they say on the Sam Adam's commercials. In the summer, we want light and refreshing brews to go with the warm weather. In the winter, however, we want heavier, stronger beers to complement the frigid air outside our windows. Cue the "holiday beers" for a little rosy-cheeked refreshment.
Much like pumpkin beers in the fall, these brews usually feature a seasonal twist on an everyday beer style. Most holiday beers feature a darker, richer flavor ranging from cinnamon to chocolate, as well as fruit and malted grains. Also, many of the winter season beers boast hefty ABVs, which make them a wonderful asset to those of us who need to unwind after neverending shopping and traveling for what seems like forever.
I've done quite a bit of tasting … erm, research … in order to bring you a few of my favorites.
Click through to scout Tierney's favorite holiday beers:
Every year I am a huge fan of Appalachian Brewing Company's Grinnin' Grizzly Spiced Ale. This beer shows its face in early November, getting me ready for what the season has to offer. It's a nice low 5.4% ABV and features flavors such as cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and orange. It always makes me a feel a little reminiscent of those winter nights stealing warm gingerbread cookies as my mother baked. A little birdy told me that this beer is in limited supply this year, so I wouldn't wait to get my glass if I were you.
Another lovely local holiday beer with a more classic flavor would be Lancaster Brewing Company's Winter Warmer Ale. Lancaster has this beer available at both of their brewpubs as well as in bottles. I love this beer because it is true to its style as an "Olde Ale" in that it is full-bodied and has a wonderful malt flavor as well as seasonal chocolate and caramel undertones. At 8.9% ABV, this is definitely a beer you will sit and enjoy by the fire and wonder why you're still toasty long after the fire is gone.
Next, there's a little something for those who celebrate Hannukah. There are plenty of "Christmas Beers" out there, but I can't let Christmas steal the scene when it comes to beer. I l-o-v-e Shmaltz Brewing Company's He'Brew beers. Each year Shmaltz/He'Brew releases a series of 8 amazing beers – one for each night of Hanukkah.
This year's gift set has yet to be released, but they usually contain 8 of "the chosen beers," a glass and candles with directions on how to make your own menorah. How awesome is that? My favorite of these beers would be the Genesis 15:15 Barrel-Aged Harvest Barleywine. I had the opportunity to try this out while I was in Atlanta, and it doesn't disappoint. It's a steep 13.4% ABV (whoa) and tastes like fruitcake with a side of bourbon. It's a wonderful beer to share with friends as an after dinner beverage or when you're snowed in for the day.
There are many, many more holiday beers that I invite you to check out on your own. My favorites? Sam Adam's Winter Lager, Rogue Yellow Snow IPA,Troeg's Mad Elf, Bell's Christmas Ale, Fegley's Brew Works Rude Elf's Reserve, Ithaca Brewing Cold Front, The Bruery 4 Calling Birds Ale – the list goes on!
I recommend checking places like McGrath's, Coakley's, Al's of Hampden, Shady McGrady's once they reopen, and Brewhouse Grille along with the breweries/brewpubs directly for your best opportunity to snag some of these.
After a long day of shopping, putting up those dreaded lights or working long hours at the office, there's nothing better this time of year than relaxing with a winter beer. Ha that rhymed. Maybe I've been doing a little too much research … As always, celebrate responsibly!